Alum. council supports diversity

by Shevani Jaisingh | 5/22/01 5:00am

The 97 member Alumni Council passed a resolution last Saturday supporting the principles of an inclusive Dartmouth community similar to those demanded by the protesters several weeks ago.

Stating that "The Dartmouth College Alumni Council supports the administration's leadership role in affirming an inclusive Dartmouth community committed to fairness, respect and openness, with no patience or tolerance for bigotry or demeaning behavior," the Alumni council made a statement in strong opposition to sexist, racist and homophobic behavior.

The Council passed the resolution because there was concern among its members that the College perception of alumni was that they are a unified voice which supports the Greek system regardless of how Coed Fraternity and Sorority members behave.

Director of Alumni Relations Nels Armstrong '71 emphasized that the Council "wants to look toward the future and does not want to have a monolithic voice," adding that the overarching concern of the Council is to keep the idea of community intact.

"I think the Alumni Council attempts to support College leadership, particularly in recent times, to have in place a civil society," Armstrong said.

Ty Garland '02, one of four student representatives on the council said, "the resolution is appropriate and it's obvious that neither the students, afilliated or not, nor the Council approve of [sexist, racist and homophobic] behavior."

According to President of the Alumni Council Missy Attridge '77, the Council and alumni in general hold a variety of opinions on the subject of social life at the College.

The resolution was not passed unanimously, although there was a clear majority -- a majority that was described as large enough that it was unnecessary to count votes.

Despite the differing views the Council "could agree on the administration trying to promote the principle that every single Dartmouth student is well on campus," Attridge said.

"Most alums look back on their time here very dearly," Armstrong said. It is fair to say Alumni certainly want students to have the very best experience they can have both in the classroom and out," he continued.

Both Armstrong and Attridge said that the resolution was not just about the Greek system.

"Dartmouth's community is constructive and responsible. Those who aren't should face fair and consistent consequences ... There is an overriding sense this group felt that there are responsibilities that go hand-in-hand with community," Attridge said. She also noted that the Council chose specifically not to name the Greeks.

"There is substantial support for organizations that demonstrate they are contributing members of the Dartmouth community and we applaud the leadership that many student organizations and individual undergraduates have taken to examine and improve their own organizations," Attridge said.

Besides the Greek system, the resolution refers to other campus organizations making efforts to be inclusive. Attridge cited some of the cultural groups on campus that have members from various backgrounds and ethnicities, such as the African American underground theater group, the Chinese Dance Troupe and Roots of Rhythm, as some other organizations that were spoken of when the resolution was discussed.

The resolution was voted on after the executive committee of the council debated the issue over the weekend and the Council heard presentations by Dean of the College James Larimore as well as a panel of Greek and non-Greek students.

According to Attridge, the resolution had no relationship to the faculty's recent unanimous vote for the College to withdraw support from the Greek system. "I think the faculty is probably ahead of the Council in coming to the conclusion that the Greek system can't be fixed," she said.

Attridge attributed this to the members' varied opinions on social life at the College.

Attridge also thought council members had various opinions of Dartmouth's community based on whether they were here pre or post- coeducation. The general sentiment, though, is that there are in fact more student organizations, outlets and social options today than there were in the past.

Attridge cited Collis as an example of a more recent social option that provided many opportunities for students. She also said she sees a greater effort to encourage extracurricular activities recently.

At the meeting, Attridge said some of the older male alumni commented that one of the differences between students previously and those now at Dartmouth is that there was more self-policing among students back then.

They thought this might have been because those students who served in wars dealt with whole units being punished for the action of one individual. Related to the College, some said perhaps this lead to a greater shame factor or ability to coerce classmates.

In terms of citizenship, "college students do things they later regret," Attridge said of students from both current classes as well as classes dating back to 1769. She continued that the key for the College is to apply fair and consistent standards in dealing with those who are irresponsible.

Attridge described the current student body as, "amazingly bright, talented and into so many different things that it is head spinning." She said that the Council enjoys seeing student presentations and performances whenever they come to campus.

The Alumni Council consists of 97 members who are elected for three-year terms. The elections are staggered so that roughly one-third of the Council is up for election at once and every other class has a representative.

In addition to class representatives, there are members who represent Dartmouth clubs, affiliated groups, graduate schools and various geographic areas. There are also members at large chosen for underrepresented areas and four undergraduate students on the Council.

The Council is usually 35 to 40 percent female, which is higher than the percentage of female alumni, and the bulk of the membership is from class 15 to 30 years after graduation. There is no Greek vs. non-Greek breakdown of the membership.

The Alumni Council meets as a whole twice a year, usually during the end of fall term and the middle of spring term. However, committee meetings occur throughout the year.

At the meetings the Council normally passes various resolutions dealing with current issues and operations related to the function of the Council.

The general purpose of the council is to update alumni on the current status of the College as well as to inform the administration of the opinions of alumni.